Firing an established leader in your organization is no small task. Not only do you have to deal with the discomfort of terminating someone, you’re often faced with a mountain of work as you have to hire and train their replacement as well as ensure the rest of their work gets done. However, as I’ve studied interpersonal dynamics in countless companies, it’s become clear to me that in the long run, keeping a toxic leader will cost you much more than replacing them. If you’re not sure how to identify toxicity within your company, I’d encourage you to read my latest thoughts on this topic. If it turns out that you do have a manager whose behavior is hurting company culture and very likely your bottom line, it’s time to cut ties now and not wait until it’s convenient.
Leadership Skills > Skill Sets
I understand why companies hesitate to fire someone in a leadership role, particularly because it often feels like they are the only one who can do the job well, having learned the complexities of the position and the people they manage. This is almost never the case. Good leadership is transferable between companies and industries. Your manager needs to be a capable leader more than nearly anything else – they can learn the industry if they’re willing to learn. Healthy leadership is irreplaceable. Skill sets are not. Trust me, “the devil you know” is not worth keeping around, no matter how much of a risk it may seem to find a new leader. Don’t wait until it’s convenient to “treat the issue” because you will find there is no convenient time. If you find that
The Art of Smooth Transitions
It’s long been common business practice for employees to train their replacements — and of course, it’s wise to have a “succession plan” in place for your managers. If they retire, or even move on from your company in good standing, they’re more than capable of showing their replacement the ropes. There’s a valuable opportunity for mentorship in this changing of the guard, if things are handled correctly. It also makes the best of their remaining time, while keeping you free to run your business as usual. But before you relinquish onboarding control to your departing manager, it’s important to consider two things: excellence and culture.
First and foremost, does your current manager exemplify your future expectations for the role? Remember, they will always teach what they’ve always done, so if you’re looking to make a change in vision or trajectory with your new hire, or you’d like to raise the standard, it’s best to have them trained by someone who exemplifies the traits and behaviors you’re looking for or train them yourself. Secondly, what culture does your departing manager bring to the table? If they do great work with a horrible attitude, you probably don’t want to pass that along. If your manager is someone who always grabs for control, bullies their subordinates, or consistently plays the victim, keep in mind that is the culture that you are placing your new leader. It is a lot to ask of a new leader to both learn their job and fix the culture right out of the gate.
The Benefits of Starting from Scratch
If your terminated manager has a history of having a bad attitude or displaying incorrect behaviors – even more so if it’s the reason they’re being let go – I would strongly recommend against using them to interview, hire, or train their replacement. I recognize that this probably means more work for others in the initial transition, but if you get a great person onboarded well, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much productivity and morale increases on the team in the months and years to come. A clean slate allows you to cast vision for the role that may have been lacking before, as well as charting a better course for your organization from day one. On the contrary, in allowing your toxic leader to onboard their replacement, they’re likely passing on a skewed view of your company, bad habits, and even a bad attitude. Although it may seem easier to let that person train a new one, it’s unwise to poison the well before your new hire even settles in. If you address your toxic managers immediately and bring in new leadership sooner, you’ll see an immediate shift in company culture, team productivity, and your bottom line.